1st/2nd/3rd/4th April

1st April - packing and international travel

If reversing past the 400 yard firing point on Century is a good start to an international tour, then the England Team to South Africa got off to a tremendous start. 

Prior to the team’s departure from Bisley, Jumbo played his Vice Captain role with aplomb, keeping the barman busy while the packing of rifles and shooting gear took place in the Surrey. Somewhat overweight and causing a lot of expense, the team's kit (not Jumbo) finally got loaded and we were off!
 
 
2nd April - the drive from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein
 
Arrival in Bloemfontein was celebrated with the team’s first supper, an obligatory steak evening in the Block & Cellar. The team polished off a jeroboam and 3 magnums of Pinotage, and (most) then headed off to bed to catch up on sleep missed on the flight.
 
 
3rd April - the first day of individual competitions hosted by SABU (Sou African Bisley Union)
 
A 6am breakfast and 6.45am departure proved an ambitious target, nonetheless Africa is a beautiful country at first light and the 30 minute drive to the range across bush and grassland is a scenic start to the day. Once shooting started, the winds proved fickle, flickering back and forth, left and right like a lizard’s tongue. The afternoon saw platoons of cotton wool marching across the skies, creating challenges for firers (as changes in brightness affect the reflection of light through shooters’ sights). It was an important day on the range as firers checked their zeros (Bloemfontein is considered a relatively high altitude range at 1,400m and the lightness of air has an effect on a bullet's trajectory), and all were reminded how difficult the wind conditions can be - constantly changing as the earth warms up and the sun moves across the sky throughout the day.
 
 
4th April - the second day of individual competitions
Today exhibited more classically Bloem weather, with the wind blowing from the right in the morning,and moving round to the left in  early afternoon. The day's scores won't be announced until tomorrow night but several team members put in strong performances during this day of individual competitions. 
Aside from keeping a beady eye on the targets, there were several opportunities to cop a look at the local wildlife - dawn is heralded by the cooing of pigeons and the squeaking of hundreds of small starlings. Zebras and elegant giraffes festoon the grasslands on the drive from the hotel to the range. Springbok prance through the fawn coloured savannah startled by the passing minibuses. Dinner also provides an opportuity to sample some of the local wildlife, which generally appears medium-rare.